Losing some of your greatest talent sucks. We’ve all been there as leaders where some of your key talent and strongest performers have chosen to resign for various reasons. Anything from a better opportunity to personal reasons I’m sure you’ve heard before.

During a global pandemic, it’s no different. Yes, sadly many have been laid off and lost their jobs while others still, chose to use this time to leave and pursue other career paths or opportunities. Bravely and boldly I might add, they’ve taken a leap during these uncertain times.

Many of us have heard the expression, “People don’t leave jobs, they leave bad bosses.” In many cases, this is true. In others, it’s not and people still leave having worked for great leaders. What remains a constant is the experience of a bad “corporate exit.”

The experience of leaving a job and having a less than pleasant experience while doing so. Whether it’s because as an employee, they handled it poorly or in many cases, as a leader, you were unsupportive and made it feel like you were being robbed blind.

It’s not typically an easy message to deliver, yet one that can be handled with care. As a leader, one who can make the difference between a conversation your employee will never forget or one where your employee will always remember – because you were a jackass. You choose!

Your role as a leader is just as important when your employees are working for you as it is when they’re leaving. Your role doesn’t end there. In fact, it becomes a shining moment most will remember as people remember how you treated them when they started and how you are when they leave.

Unfortunately, many of us will remember a poor exit. One that left a sour taste in your mouth and came with a laundry list of “you didn’t do (fill in the blank)” and “I’m tired of X not happening…” or “I’ve been waiting for X.. and it still hasn’t happened.”

Leaders are no different. Think about the experiences you had when one of your direct reports came to you to give notice.

Were you graceful as your employee resigned?

Did you wish them well?

Did you celebrate their time working with you and the company?

Have you taken the opportunity to learn from their time and experience while working for you?

Were you open to listening?

An opportunity to exercise the support each one of us craves when we’re faced with making as important of a decision as leaving a company includes displaying signs of:

  • Openness
  • Kindness
  • Encouragement
  • Helpfulness
  • Joy
  • Enthusiasm
  • Empathy

This is how you support the exit. Take note first that you have a human being sitting across from you who likely is already a little nervous (even if they’re not, pretend they are!) sharing they’re leaving the company. Whatever the reason is, how will you choose to respond in that moment? Is this their moment or yours?

Earlier in my career, I made the abrupt decision at the time to leave a job I was no longer happy in for a multitude of reasons. My boss was based in the U.S. and I was based here in Toronto. While my conversation with my boss took place on the phone (consider time differences and time of day), my resignation ultimately landed with HR directly who was in office and also happened to be new to the company.

It was uncomfortable.

It was sad.

And she took me out for a nice lunch and crepes afterwards.

Of course, what I remember most is the crepes. 😉 I also remember the details of the conversation and how she treated me. That was the memory I was left with. It could have gone very differently and thankfully it didn’t.

The stories of those leaders who make an impression when someone decides to leave a company are far and few between. They get lost amidst the stories of the leaders who forget their role and, in those moments, choose to throw leadership out the window and forget about the once upon a time “top performer” sitting across from them.

We’re in uncertain and challenging times. People’s careers have been impacted while some are starting new ones and taking a closer look at “what’s next?” We’ve all been on the other side of that desk having the same conversation at one point or another in our careers.

It’s in those sometimes harder conversations that we have with the people we lead where we can choose to be the best we can be and still, lead by example.

I’d love to know in the comments. Have you worked with a leader who made a lasting impression on you while giving your notice?

Share below!! There is surely someone who would appreciate hearing your story. 

Big love,

Lisa 💞